History of Communism in Europe

Volume 1, 2010

Politics of Memory in Post-communist Europe

Paul Hollander
Pages 21-34

Political Pilgrimages: Their Meaning, Aftermath, and Linkages

Many distinguished Western intellectuals visited communist (or state socialist) countries (such as the former Soviet Union, China under Mao and Cuba under Castro) during the past century with a highly favourable predisposition and wrote admiring accounts of their experiences. These political pilgrimages demonstrated the capacity of intellectuals for wishful thinking and bizarre political misjudgements. More recently the same underlying attitudes which gave rise to these misjudgements found expression in anti-Americanism and the non-judgmental or sympathetic attitudes towards Islamic radicalism. These misjudgements and the associated illusions compel the revision of widely held conceptions of intellectuals as individuals with highly developed critical faculties capable of distinguishing between appearance and reality.